Combs Sings in Tribute of Schumann’s 200th Birthday

Adjunct Instructor in Music Allen Combs gave an enthusiastic two-part program in honor of the 200th anniversary of Robert Schumann’s birthday last Friday in the Timken Room. Combs, accompanied by Instructor in Music Christopher Walter, began the recital with a Schumann song cycle named “Twelve Songs to Poems of Justinus Kerner, Op.35.” The 12 songs presented a variety of emotions, from mournful to joyful, agitated to relaxed. The first piece out of the 12 was “Lust der Sturmnacht” (the pleasure of a stormy night), which displayed a sudden onset of intensity from the beginning. Over Walter’s majestic piano harmonies, Combs drew the audience in through his dramatic singing. Later, the music calmed down, shifting to a more lyrical, flowing section, when he closed his eyes and let his singing envelop the room. Next, Combs sang “Stirb, Lieb’ und Freud” (Die, love and joy!). The piece featured Combs’s deep, lyrical tenor voice, which contrasted with the former agitated section. In German, he sang a story about a pious, loving woman in a soft voice. The music slowly progressed to a lamenting, minor climax. The mournful singing was quickly replaced by a joyful “Stille Libe” (Secret Love). Through the grandiose makeup of this piece, Combs showcased his large range of singing. The piece’s energy also invigorated the audience as well, drawing enthusiastic nods from many audience members. Sung Yup Jung ’12, an audience member, commented, “I really liked Stille Liebe… it was energetic, [and] there was a lot of force… and much energy in his singing…This song made the crowd jump.” The second half of the program, cut off by a short intermission, included works by Schumann’s wife, Clara Schumann, who was another prolific composer in the 19th century. The first piece in this section was “Das Veilchen” (The violet), a light piece with a lilting melody in F major. Although the melody became restless with the oncoming of the violet’s death, the piano ended with a pianistic flourish characteristic of Clara Schumann. After this piece, the program switched gears to Robert Schumann again. Schumann’s “Auftrage” (Mission) showed a fast accompaniment against Combs’s pacifying singing. Combs portrayed the anxieties of a person wishing to give a message to his love through a tiny wave. He reminisced, “I first heard [Auftrage] when I was 16 years old, and I wanted to sing it since then… it really is a charming, wonderful song where both the accompaniment and vocal part mirror the text.” The next on the list was “Funf Lieder und Gesange”, a collection of German art songs, which concluded the program. The second piece, “Dein Angesicht” (Your face), out of the five was especially notable for its sweet melody over a soft accompaniment. Combs’ melody seemed to float innocently over the different piano harmonies while reaching out to the audience members’ hearts. By the end of the program, it was clear how much effort it took Combs to sing for over an hour. Marie Liu ’12 said, “You can tell [Combs] is very into his work through both the expertise of his singing and the way he seems to feel the music.” Combs presented a fantastic performance by showcasing not only his vocal abilities, but also bringing emotion into his music. The audience members could listen to the music and go through many diverse experiences and emotions that Combs portrayed with his singing. However, it was a pity that there were not too many Andover students to see the performance. Combs said, “I was generally happy with [the] performance, but I wish there had been more Academy students there to hear it.” Combs has been working as an Adjunct Instructor in Music since 1987. He comes from New Hampshire to teach his students at Andover. He said that he teaches at PA because he also started singing as a teenager, and he feels it “important to provide the same service” he got from his vocal teacher to developing singers. Combs hoped that “everyone enjoyed [the concert].” But why hope? Everyone did.